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CBP Protects Valentine's Day Flowers from Harmful Pests

Release Date: 
February 11, 2014

The weeks leading to Valentine’s Day are some of the most demanding each year for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists as they ensure that cut flowers are free from microscopic insects and diseases that could harm the U.S. agricultural and floral industries.

CBP agriculture specialist gently taps flower import samples to shake out hitchhiking bugs

CBP agriculture specialist gently taps flower import samples to shake out hitchhiking bugs.

Detecting and preventing pests from entering the U.S. avoids significant economic and environmental harm. “Basically, CBP agriculture specialists are at the frontline for inspection of agricultural products to detect plant pests and plant diseases not established in the United States,” said CBP Acting Assistant Port Director for Agriculture Linda Cullen. The Miami port of entry where she works ranks first among U.S. ports of entry for cut flower imports because of its close vicinity to South America and Central America.

Flowers chosen for physical inspections are based on low, medium, or high risk as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Cut Flower Release Program. The criteria for this program include measuring how many and what kinds of pests were found in shipments of the various species of flowers arriving from different countries. The risks associated with imported cut flowers change over time for several reasons. For example, the volume of imported flowers and the size of insect populations change from year to year. Also, different species of pests spread from country to country.

CBP agriculture specialist at Miami International Airport examines flower imports

CBP agriculture specialist at Miami International Airport examines flower imports.

CBP processed approximately 867.2 million cut flower stems during the 2013 Valentine’s Day season (Jan. 1 to Feb. 1), compared to 842.2 million stems processed during the 2012 season–an increase of 3 percent. Most of the cut flowers are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, with 567.3 million stems or 65.4 percent, followed by Ecuador with 190.2 million stems or 21.9 percent.

During the 2013 Valentine’s season:

  • CBP in Miami processed approximately 738.2 million stems, or 85 percent of total imported cut flowers nationally, compared to 716.7 million stems imported during the same time in 2012. The port of Los Angeles ranked second by processing 43.7 million flower stems during the 2013 Valentine’s season, compared to 35 million stems imported during the previous season.
  • In Miami, the top cut flower imports were roses, mixed bouquets, and rose bouquets.
  • Imported cut flower inspections netted 1,867 pest interceptions locally between Jan. 20-Feb. 14 last year.
Top 10 ports of entry, by volume (number of stems), that processed shipments of cut flower imports for the 2013 Valentine season:


Quantity in Stems

FL Miami Air Cargo CBP


CA Los Angeles CBP


CA Otay Mesa CBP


TX Laredo CBP Colombia


NY JFK Air Cargo CBP


IL Chicago CBP


MA Boston CBP


TX Pharr CBP


PR San Juan Air CBP


NJ Newark Sea CBP



Top 10 ports of entry, by number of plant pests intercepted from shipments of imported cut flowers:


Pests Intercepted

FL Miami Air CBP


CA Los Angeles CBP




PR Aguadilla CBP


PR San Juan Air CBP


CA Otay Mesa CBP


IL Chicago CBP


TX Dallas/Ft. Worth CBP


TX Brownsville CBP


HI Honolulu CBP


CA San Francisco CBP


Last modified: 
February 8, 2017